Froedtert Health CEO Cathy Jacobson had unexpected journey to health care industry

Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin is a regional health network. The hospital and academic center admits more than 40,000 patients a year. At the helm of the mega-health system is an unassuming mother of three. 52-year-old Cathy Jacobson is President and CEO of  Froedtert Health.

She is a woman who worked her way up. Jacobson smiles, "I like to tell folks my first job in the hospital was washing dishes in the kitchen." That early job was great preparation for a young lady from a working class family.

She adds, "I'm one of the first people in my family to go to college." Cathy earned a degree in Accounting, which has blossomed into a CEO job.

She admits that was not her early career plan. "I never thought I would end up working in hospitals and health care at all."

But today the CEO inspires the younger generation. TODAY'S TMJ4 caught up with her speaking to young professionals at the group FUEL. 

Jacobson admits she had to grow into public speaking roles. In high school she was more of an introvert.

"I was absolutely not the person who was the center of attention or or the person who lit up the room--I had middle sisters who are more like that than I am."

But Cathy focused on her strong academic skills and learned to grow her confidence. She has this advice for future aspiring leaders. "Find your talent and find your gift, because if you can find the thing that makes you confident then you at least have your spot."

Jacobson calls her parents her personal heroes. She is still close to them. "I was exceptionally blessed for the parents I was given.

Jacobson says her job would be impossible without her husband. He's been a stay at home Dad for the past 13 years.

She admits, "Not everybody can have the opportunity to stay home like we have. But if you want to have a career as a woman you have to have somebody who is going to help you with your family on an equal basis. You cannot do both, you just can't."

She feels blessed her husband has been a willing partner. "I wouldn't say it was the easiest for him all the time. It's a great thing when you're a woman your welcomed into a big network of moms. There isn't a big network of dads."

Still, leisure time is a luxury. Jacobson explains, "When it does happen I just love to sit down and read a book."

And when she can relax with music, her first choice? "Rock music. I'm particularly attuned to 80s hard rock!" 

Jacobson sits on more than a dozen boards, including the United Way of Greater Milwaukee. But she still has one role she cherishes the most.

When asked about the legacy she hopes to leave her kids, Jacobson simply says, "I just want them to remember I was their mom. That's all that absolutely matters, that I was their mom."

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